Thursday, December 31, 2020

Stolen Holiday

If you know me, you know New Year's Eve is my favorite holiday. Not so much for the champagne and revelry (which I fully support), but for the newness. The fresh start of January 1. A new calendar year comes so full of hope and promise. The days ahead can be whatever you want. Resolutions make the world go 'round for weeks, at least, sometimes longer. And I am here for all of it.

This year, though, I am having big feelings about 2021. I'm in a strange place in my heart tonight, feeling cheated. I feel robbed of my favorite holiday. An illness that threatens me and everyone I know has made off with my sense of security and hopefulness like a bandit. And I'm angry about it.

Here is where I am right now: it is cold and raining outside on New Year's Eve. I have one more day of work at the end of a very long two week stretch with no break. I am weepy. Not doubled over sobbing, but sniffly enough that I have a tissue. Fireworks are popping in the distance and probably will until about 1 a.m. I ate too much for dinner.

I've been struggling this holiday season. I had plans and broke them and it broke my heart. The weight of the pandemic was  more than I could carry to the people I love. My fear of potentially making someone sick outweighed my desire to hug and be hugged by my family. And I'm here to tell you that if you haven't been hugged by someone who loves you unconditionally in months, that pain is real. A shoutout to everyone who lives alone and works from home, and to those who come home to an empty house. I feel you.

I am frustrated that my life feels so small tonight. I keep trying to find more bigness, but the worry squeezes things back down to size. Favorite restaurants reduced to soggy takeout, groceries ordered and dumped in the back of the car, Facetime, Zoom, texts, Amazon delivery days. Masks.

Emotions I will not tie to any specific thing, but also lurking under the surface: resentfulness and jealousy, both irrational and ugly.

I messaged a friend recently and said, "I'm so sad about 2020 and what I feel is so much wasted time."
What I meant was, I wasted time. Days, weeks and months feeling aimless, tired, overwhelmed, annoyed and afraid.

I asked my friend, "How do you just not see your family and friends? How do you lead a team when you are never in the same room with them? How do you keep moving forward when the whole world is stuck?"

I also wrote to my friend that I feel very strongly about creating goals for myself in 2021.

As I write, my Christmas tree glows in the corner, reminding me that the people, places and things I love and miss are actually close. And that sort of feels like optimism seeping back in. So I will grab hold of that for now and list the beginnings of the plans that I have sketched out for myself in 2021:

1. Do more of what makes me happy
2. Find new ways to overcome anxiety
3. One road trip per month (i.e. learn the fine art of car camping!)
4. Reach out more 

As always, pandemic or not, I leave myself plenty of room to succeed in my goals, while noting there is equal space to fail. And as always, I continue to work on granting myself grace whichever direction my chips may fall.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Better than some, worse than others

Social distancing.

If I never have to speak or hear those words again, I will be happy.

Sadly, here we are. Social distancing. We are avoiding family, friends, coworkers, strangers, grocery store clerks, dog walkers, delivery drivers, and anyone else who might be harboring a potentially deadly strain of Coronavirus. 

This is 2020. The year of the mask.

I am on the fence when it comes to fearing for my health. Maybe that is cavalier of me, as I have one of the underlying conditions that apparently makes Covid-19 one nasty bug. My diabetes is controlled so I a wander around with a (false?) sense of security.

Wandering is no understatement. I think I have walked nearly every side street within two miles of my back door in the past month. I miss my gym. And if I don't get out of the house for something other than work, I might climb the walls. Thank goodness Memphis is actually experiencing a mild Spring season this year, making local parks (the ones that are still open) ideal for anxiety relief.

It is all very overwhelming. A rampant illness. Orders to stay at home. Friends and loved ones flung into a seemingly endless state of unemployment, faultless and unprepared.

I am blessed, of this I have no doubt. I go to work five days a week. I am being paid. I have been deemed "essential."

And in true "hashtag" fashion, I am doing what I can to support local businesses. I order, they deliver, I post on social media. My biggest problem right now is so many restaurants, so little time.

I am lucky.

I know outstanding people who are not as fortunate and my heart breaks. I am eager to do something meaningful for the beloved people in my life. So many struggling, so little time. 

I cry in private.

I am also fortunate that my anxiety is not paralyzing. Healthy doses of effective advertising keep the tears flowing and it cleanses the soul a bit. But the relief does not last long. In the beginning I was swamped by the deluge of information or lack thereof. Now it takes seconds to sift through what is important and what is garbage.

I miss my life.

I worry about my family. I am isolated at work (a situation which I regularly break). Upcoming vacations are in question (first world problem). I have not seen my friends (my rocks) in weeks. My routines are shattered. I worry some businesses will not survive. A trip to the grocery store used to annoy me. Now it is dreadful. I am acutely aware of how much toilet paper I have.

I am not spiraling and I refuse to be derailed entirely. The daily walks are keeping me sane amid so much uncertainty. I am learning a new rhythm of my community and my city. I think people are generally givers in this situation. No one wants to see anyone fail. The unfairness touches us all.

Moving forward.

I keep typing those two words not far behind "social distancing" to inspire hope in those who hear my work. How will we move forward? How will we recover? There are plans in the works from Washington, D.C. all the way to Memphis, but we're not there yet. Four more words I keep typing.

Until we "get there", I'm just here. Doing better than some, worse than others.
And above all, I am grateful. Grateful for all the ways people are coming together while social distancing. Giving money, food, time, energy, services, and little pieces of soul to something we can't nail down. That thing that's actually good when we say, "that's so Memphis."

The promise of better days ahead is encouraging.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Hunting For A Hike

I had one weekend to get away in July, and I cut this one close. Friday night I had no idea where I would go Saturday morning, but I knew I was going somewhere. A quick search of day trips and I landed on Natchez Trace State Park, part of the Tennessee State Parks system. Less than two hours away. Trails to hike. Done.

Saturday morning I packed a lunch, filled a couple of water bottles an anticipation of the 90+ degree heat, threw the camera in the car and hit the road.

The park is literally right off the interstate, so getting there was no problem. First stop, a snap of the welcome sign at the entrance, then on to park headquarters. I knew there was a museum in there filled with the history of the Natchez Trace, so I confess, I pulled into the parking lot, assessed my map, and kept going. I'll stop by on my way out, I thought.

But further down the road the confusion began.  I had done the research, found the trails I wanted to check out and even downloaded the map. But despite my best efforts, I absolutely could not find any trailheads. Not one!

Finally, frustrated and about to give up, I turned off the main road on what I assumed would be another proverbial dead end in my hunt for hiking trails, and there it was. The only signage I'd seen all day indicating anything other than campgrounds and a shooting range.

Not what I was expecting, but I'll take it.

A few steps into the woods, and that familiar feeling pushed my frustration aside. I don't know what it is about being ten feet into nature, but all the sounds of kids at the nearby pool, cars driving by, campers on generators... all of it gone. I was left with nothing but silence. I stopped to take a deep breath, then kept my eye on the tree roots jutting up through the dirt path.

Eventually, the path meanders into a fork in the road. To the left is the Pin Oak Trail that takes you toward the Pin Oak Lodge along Pin Oak Lake. To the right is the Oak Ridge Trail which promises to be somewhat of a "nature trail." I turned right.

Oak Ridge put my basic skills to the test. The trail often disappeared beneath leaves, pine needles and other debris so I had to keep my eyes peeled for the white blazes, which is asking a lot because my head is on a swivel in places like this. I get distracted by every bird song, every snap of a twig or rustle of leaves nearby, hoping to spot a critter, or maybe something I've never seen before.

But it wasn't birds or other animals that caught my attention this time. It was something a little more  unexpected...

Mushrooms! Some of the coolest, kookiest, most colorful 'shrooms this rookie hiker/city girl has ever seen! Now maybe to the trained eye, these guys are old hat and nothing to get all worked up about. But I was sort of stunned. Every hundred feet was a different fungus to photograph, one I had never laid eyes on before, in all sorts of fun colors just begging for a closeup!

I couldn't identify any of the mushrooms without help from Google, but I didn't need a search engine to tell me who was serenading my hike. Summer tanagers seemed to laugh at me every time I bent down for another shot of what they see every day.

As for the Oak Ridge Trail itself, it was hilly, serene, beautiful, peaceful, and worth the hunt. Once I got back to the car, sweaty and hungry, I sucked down a bottle of water and walked down to Pin Oak Lake. I found a bench to enjoy my brown bag lunch and watched families come and go from the dock, out for a day of boating in the sunshine. My heart was full.

When it was time to go, I drove back toward the park entrance to stop at the museum and check things out. The facility reminded me of a natural history museum I once visited in elementary school in the 1980s. I loved the quaintness of it and was so involved in reading the history that I forgot to take a picture. And of course I was drawn to the giant picture window overlooking a garden filled with active bird feeders.

On my way out of the parking lot, I looked to my left and saw a sign I had not noticed before, pointing toward the trailhead for the Red Leaves Trail. The one I had been looking for.